June 14, 2010 2

State of the TV Address

By in TV


For the first time that I can remember, I feel like television has let me down. This past season of shows, now that it’s over, has left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m feeling rather cold and disappointed by it all, even if overall it was a mixed bag.

The two biggest offenders, and main reason for the overall disdain, are Lost and GLEE. “Glee?!??” you say. “Yes Glee!” I respond, because it had such potential that I never felt like it lived up to. Sure, the songs were fantastic, Sue Sylvester is a fun character to watch, and actor Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester) is very nice to look at, but at the end of the day I felt like the show was a giant mess. It’s been written about by bloggers more eloquent than I, but I felt like the separate writers never gelled their visions for the show and as a result character motivations were¬† all over the place, completely changing episode to episode, while plots were picked up, dropped, picked up again, and then forgotten about either completely or suddenly resurrected at the finale. Sure, it’s just the first season, and sure other shows do that as well, but this is Glee.

So if it’s the hype and the hope and the excitement throughout that’s killing my feelings for it, so be it: the show has the possibility to be amazing, and the fact that I don’t think it’s delivering is a letdown. Especially since I tend to like it when it’s at either end of its spectrum: either bubble-gum, candy-colored bright and excited, or surprisingly dark, tragic, and accurate to how upsetting high school can be. Between talking with Adam immediately after each episode, and then having Wednesday morning Glee-chats with Eric, our Features Editor at work, I think it’s safe to say there are a few key things Glee could do to improve it’s next season: 1) Stop trying to disband the club every single week 2) Stop changing character’s motivations every week and 3) Get ride of some of the characters — there are just too many and we can’t possibly care about them all, especially when they’re currently such broad strokes.

Glee graph

LOST, on the other hand, is a special case. Adam and I watched season 1 on DVD when it came out, season 2 live when it aired, and then dropped the show for years. It wasn’t until this past winter that we decided to catch up and blazed through seasons 3, 4, and 5 in a little over a month so we could watch the final season as it aired. And maybe that’s part of the problem: returning to the weekly serialized format or because the previous seasons were so fresh in my mind. There’s no denying Lost is fantastic, and at times some of the best television I’ve ever watched in my life. Season 6 just gave me such heartache, and then such hope, that the finale was a big disappointment to me. Purgatory? Fine. They’re dead now and their time on the island was the most important part of their living lives? Sure, I’m fine with that too. Not answering all the questions? Logical and expected. But a complete change in focus and tone from earlier seasons? Not so cool.

And again, I guess this is largely my expectations of it, but my biggest problem with season 6 was introducing all these new characters and situations for them to be in when, firstly, we know they’re not going to have much time to develop because it’s the last season and, secondly, we already have a gigantic bag full of locations and ideas to wrestle around with that can still be explored even more. I wanted more connective tissue with the beach, and the Dharma houses, and all the weird science going on. I like sci-fi and I’m a big fan of spiritualism, but I felt like season 6 went off the deep end and suddenly abandoned all that’d happened before to bring our focus solely on Jacob and Smokey, lighthouses, temples, tapestries and all. I guess I just didn’t feel like it needed that spiritual-supernatural element, which had always been an underlying aspect of Lost, brought to the forefront as our main focus. I liked it better when it was ambiguous: are the voices in the woods natives? spirits? 1970s speakers places around by Dharma folk? I suppose, in the end, my problem was that I liked the ambiguity of it all, and then when they chose to give us some answers, I didn’t like what was given.

LOST graph

On minor fronts, this season, I also completely lost interest in THE OFFICE: when it’s on, I laugh, but when it’s not on I never miss it anymore. I don’t blame it on Jim & Pam’s baby, I just blame it on no longer knowing what to do with any of the characters and how they’re emotionally tied together anymore. I’m not actively rooting for Andy and new receptionist, I don’t care that Michael likes the woman who owns the bar, and everyone else? Same old, same old. The episode with Kathy Bates was the best one all season, and since I haven’t watched the last 2-3 episodes yet, I hope it brings back some of her crackle. Because right now, if it’s canceled, I’ll shed a tear but quickly move on and remember it’s glory days. Similarly TOP CHEF MASTERS has been good for what it’s been, but certainly not great and nowhere near last season. I think the problem squarely lies in that last season had absolutely no drama and was simply about amazing cooking and I loved it. This season, I feel like they decided it needed a bit more normal Top Chef drama so they tried to make it more difficult; but since they’re professional chefs and 9 times out of 10 won’t reach the level of drama normal chef-testants do, it’s just been kinda ho-hum. So I’m left just waiting for the standard season to begin in a couple weeks. Speaking of “reality” shows, while I enjoyed PROJET RUNWAY this season far far more than last (apparently it’s worst ever, but my first ever) I completely forgot that I’d even watched it when I was amassing this list, so what does that say?

All this complaining is merely about my disappointment, but I’ve certainly seen some really good television as well. 30 ROCK continues to make me laugh consistently more than anything else in life, even if this season wasn’t quite as good as it’s previous ones. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER is, for my money, the absolute best thing on television for my generation: a fantastic, talented, likable cast with near-perfect writing, and a format that feels familiar but gives them the freedom to stretch out a bit. If you’re still trying to find your place in the world but aren’t afraid of the journey of growing up, it’s one of the best television series ever. Fan of geekery, anime, or good ole 80s family movies? Then ADVENTURE TIME is for you! The smart, amazing Cartoon Network show is the best cartoon I’ve seen since Making Fiends (and, shhh, don’t tell, possibly even better). It’s insanely random, but insanely fun, with a big heart, and such a good time.

Adventure Time graphFinally, Adam, Katie, and I have been slowly working our way through the very first season of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. While I’m still apprehensive of diving into all the remaining seasons of it, and still don’t feel attached to the football aspect of it, I would be lying if I didn’t say I completely see the appeal and can slowly feel myself growing attached to some of the characters, although I think I would need to watch with more consistant frequency in order to grow more invested. Plus, for my money, it’s the most consistantly high quality first season of a show I’ve possibly ever seen. The writing, acting, and camera work all started very high up the bar and has stayed there throughout; it’s impressive.

What does this mean for summer? It means that I’m looking at you, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and TRUE BLOOD. You’ve got some big shoes to fill: shoes with expectations that you’ll be the best damn television I’ve watched all year. DANCE, I know we have an on-again, off-again relationship, and you’ve started a bit shakey with the usual reality programming “over dramatic” bullshit, but keep the focus on the dancing, which has been wonderful, and we’ll do just fine, ‘kay? Now, TRUE BLOOD. I know you’ve got the goods, and we’re all insanely excited. I can’t remember being this excited for a new season of a show in a long time. Seriously, the Austins are throwing a party to celebrate the premiere of you, and we even made themed food last year for your finale. We are hooked, and we want to love you in your dark, dirty way. And your marketing machine is second only to Glee’s in terms of infiltrating everywhere I look; I’m good and primed now. So you better be good. Or I’ll never forgive you for it.

Loved Lost’s finale? Think I’m way off the mark on Glee? Watched something fantastic I should check out? Leave a comment and let me know! But don’t knock my hideous graphs — they’ve had a rough life.

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2 Responses to “State of the TV Address”

  1. Catherine says:

    I was… OK with the ending of LOST. I think I’m still in this weird mental state over the whole thing – I can’t believe it’s over and we won’t be seeing the characters again and at the same time I can’t believe it ended the way it did, but I’m not sure what I was expecting. Expectations were just too damn high.

    I’m excited for all of Glee to be on DVD so I can check it out (I’ve seen clips on youtube, but that’s it). Right now I’m blasting through Weeds on Netflix (it’s on instant viewing) and I’m not sure what I’m going to get addicted to on there next.

  2. Adam says:

    I still say that all this means is that we need to start checking out some of the other shows we keep hearing great things about and haven’t gotten around to watching yet: Mad Men, Dollhouse, Modern Family, Dexter, Community, Breaking Bad, etc.

    There’s more good stuff out there, we’ll just have to go find it.

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